Abnormal vaginal bleeding can be worrying. However, experiencing vaginal bleeding between periods is not necessarily a cause of concern. If you are having light blood flow, then it is known as spotting. There are many causes as to why you are having vaginal bleeding in between your periods, some of them include: Hormonal changes, having an injury, or having an underlying medical condition. Read on to find out the causes of vaginal bleeding between periods and what you can do about it.
Overview of Abnormal Bleeding Between Periods
Abnormal vaginal bleeding that takes place between periods is also known as intermenstrual bleeding, metrorrhagia, and spotting. When you experience bleeding between your normal periods, there are going to be many possible causes behind it.(1)
While some of these causes might be easy to treat, some of the other causes might also be indicative of a serious medical condition. If you notice that you are having spotting or heavier than normal bleeding between your periods, then it is important that you consult your doctor at the earliest for testing, diagnosis, and treatment options. Some of the potential causes of having abnormal bleeding between your periods include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Growth in your cervix or uterus
- Hormonal imbalance
Causes of Vaginal Bleeding Between Periods
Having vaginal bleeding between your periods is not considered to be a normal part of your menstrual cycle. The average menstrual cycle lasts for around 21 to 35 days and when you get your periods, normal vaginal bleeding, it can happen for a couple of days to a week. Any vaginal bleeding that happens outside of your normal cycle is considered to be abnormal and can also be caused by many factors. Let us take a closer look at some of these causes.(2)
Hormonal Level Imbalance
Progesterone and estrogen are the two main hormones that are responsible for regulating your menstrual cycle. You might experience some spotting in between your periods if these two hormones get out of balance. You are likely to experience hormonal imbalance due to the following reasons:
- Thyroid gland problems
- Starting, stopping, or changing your birth control pills
- Having dysfunctional ovaries
- Some women also experience spotting during ovulation due to hormonal imbalance or hormonal changes.
According to the National Health Services of the UK, when you are starting any type of hormonal contraceptive, then it is sometimes common to notice abnormal bleeding during the first three months.(3) These hormonal contraceptives may include:
- Contraceptive patch
- Birth control pills
- Intrauterine device
- Contraceptive injections or implants
Uterine fibroids are another common reason for experiencing abnormal bleeding in between your periods. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that can form in your uterus. They are most common in women who have just given birth.(4)
Complications During Pregnancy
Having complications during your pregnancy is also a common reason why you may notice spotting. A miscarriage, as well as an ectopic pregnancy, can cause you to experience abnormal bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy typically happens when a fertilized egg implants itself in your fallopian tube instead of your uterus.
However, spotting during your pregnancy does not automatically means that you are having a miscarriage. Nevertheless, if you are pregnant and you are experiencing any type of vaginal bleeding, you need to contact your doctor immediately or if possible, go to the nearest emergency room.(5)
Experiencing vaginal bleeding between your periods could also be an indication of having an infection of your reproductive organs. Infection is known to cause bleeding and inflammation. Some of the causes of infection may include:
- Sexually transmitted infection
- Vaginal douching
- Pelvic inflammatory disease, which is a condition that is characterized by inflammation of the reproductive organs, leading to scarring(6)
Though having cancer is a less common cause of having abnormal bleeding during your periods, cancer that affects the following organs can cause vaginal bleeding:
Other Rare Causes
There are also some other rare potential causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding in between your periods. These include:
- Thyroid disorders
- Extreme stress
- Significant weight gain or weight loss
- Insertion of an object into the vagina
When Should You See A Doctor?
Regardless of how much bleeding you have, you should consult your doctor any time you experience abnormal vaginal bleeding between your periods. There is a chance that you are experiencing bleeding due to a serious cause and this cause needs to be determined by your doctor. So seeing your doctor at the earliest is very important, especially if you are pregnant and having vaginal bleeding.
If you are also having some other serious symptoms in addition to vaginal bleeding, then you might also need emergency medical attention. These serious symptoms may include:
When you go to your doctor with a complaint of bleeding between your periods, you must be prepared to answer several questions regarding your symptoms. Due to this, it is helpful if you have a record of your cycle. So take note of when you get your periods and when they end. The duration and heaviness of your flow, how much and when you bleed during the periods or in between your periods is also going to be important. Your doctor needs to know about any other symptoms you have been experiencing as well and if you are taking any medications.
Your doctor is likely to give you a physical pelvic exam and might also order some diagnostic tests in order to determine the cause of the bleeding. You might have to give a blood test so that your doctor can check your hormone levels. Your doctor might also need you to give cultures or tissue that will be removed from the lining of your uterus or from your cervix for testing. This is known as a biopsy. An ultrasound is also likely to be performed.
Treating Abnormal Bleeding Between Periods
There is no specific treatment available for abnormal vaginal bleeding that happens between your periods. Treatment for this is usually varied and depends on what is the exact cause of your abnormal vaginal bleeding.
In many cases, abnormal vaginal bleeding tends to just resolve on its own. However, for some women, the underlying cause requires treatment. Ignoring this type of abnormal vaginal bleeding and not seeing a doctor for this can actually cause the problem to become worse. If the cause of the bleeding is due to cancer, an infection, or due to any other type of serious disorder, then the consequences can even be life-threatening. So do not ignore any type of vaginal bleeding between periods.
Conclusion: How to Prevent Vaginal Bleeding Between Periods?
It might not be possible to prevent bleeding in between periods, but this depends on the cause. In some cases, though, taking some preventive measures can help. One of the easiest ways to do this is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and also maintaining a healthy weight as being overweight or obese can cause you to have abnormal periods.
If you are taking birth control pills, then you should only do so under the supervision of your doctor. Otherwise, it might lead to a hormonal imbalance.
Also, exercise moderately to maintain your overall health and also to reduce your stress levels.
- Long, W. (2019). Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK282/ [Accessed 13 Jun. 2019].
- Davis, E. and Sparzak, P.B., 2018. Abnormal Uterine Bleeding (Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding). In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
- nhs.uk. (2019). What causes bleeding between periods?. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/womens-health/what-causes-bleeding-between-periods/ [Accessed 13 Jun. 2019].
- Khan, A.T., Shehmar, M. and Gupta, J.K., 2014. Uterine fibroids: current perspectives. International journal of women’s health, 6, p.95.
- Vardhan, S., Bhattacharyya, T.K., Kochar, S.P.S. and Sodhi, B., 2007. Bleeding in early pregnancy. Medical journal, Armed Forces India, 63(1), p.64.
- Soper, D.E., 2010. Pelvic inflammatory disease. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 116(2), pp.419-428.
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